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The Overwhelmed Writer’s Two-Step Checklist For Staying Connected to Readers

Image by Len Matthews. [1]
Image by Len Matthews.
I regularly hear from writers who say that they are overwhelmed, and unable to understand how to fit the idea of connecting with readers into their lives. One writer reached out to me the other day saying that she works 40-60 hours per week on her own business, and just can’t find the time or energy to not just WRITE, but to also develop her audience.

I want to address this head on for the busy writer, and also share some simple end-of-year tips for ALL writers at the same time.

Okay, it’s a very short checklist, after all, you are busy. Just two steps here:

  1. Be clear about your messaging
  2. Make it easy to stay connected with you

Boom. Done. Right? Okay, okay… let’s dig into each:

Shore Up Your Messaging
When is the last time your checked your Twitter bio, your Amazon profile or the About page on your website? Did you just cringe because it’s been so long? I thought so.

Step 1: Get your messaging down, keep it simple, make it consistent wherever people find you. I know you are busy, so this is what I recommend: Give yourself a single hour, and a single cup of coffee, tea, or wine. Yerba Mate will do as well. Write a letter to your ideal reader as to what you write, why you two should be besties [2], and a bit about who you are. Write from a blank sheet of paper or digital document.

Now: post that to wherever you have a presence online. What you want here is two things:

  1. Alignment. To communicate the FEELING that your work speaks to their heart, or that your viewpoint as a writer is something they cherish.
  2. Consistency. You want all guideposts to say the same thing. Too often, people’s messaging is confused and wildly divergent across the web.

Where do you do these things? Some places to start:

Yes, there is a craft to writing the perfect About page. What I find is most people put that task off, and settle on the boring vanilla thing that they wrote 3 years ago that sounds vaguely professional. Writing a letter to your ideal readers – the folks you would love to sit down and have coffee with is a nice way to make this process easier, quicker, and keep it human. A key thing you want to keep in mind is: avoid promoting yourself.

If you have a hard time finding that line between being descriptive and being promotional, then change the context. Instead of viewing this as “marketing copy,” think of it as a conversation. Imagine yourself in a real place, a real situation, with a real person. E.G.: Imagine that you are stuck inside a vacation home with a single ideal reader on a snowy day. All you have is a pot of coffee, a couch, and a few hours to kill while chatting with this person. What would you say?

Shore Up Your Communication Channels
Are you simple and clear about how people can stay connected with you?
 A lot of writers I see take the shotgun approach: trying to juggle updates across 10 social media channels, plus a languishing blog that mostly consists of updates apologizing for not updating more frequently.

Bleh. Who needs that?

Why not just KICK @$$ with a single channel – a place where you are fully and truly present; where your sense of humor or wit comes out; where you feel you can truly connect with others in a way that is honest. Maybe that is Instagram or a newsletter or Tumblr or Twitter. But wherever that is, make everyone you know – new readers and already engaged fans aware that THIS is the place to find you.

This time of year, we tend to have more perspective on the value of lasting relationships. Let’s be clear: this is work. Sure, Facebook has made it easier to stay connected with their daily prompts reminding you of people’s birthdays – but if you want people to not forget you, you have to be present in their lives, and they have to KNOW the best way to do that.

Do you have a newsletter? Then point everyone to it consistently. This means mentioning it in your email signature, website, social feeds, at the end of your book, etc.

This not only focuses their attention, but focuses your own as well. I’d much prefer to see you develop a personal and meaningful email list than bend over backwards to find some excuse to begrudgingly pin stuff on Pinterest because you read some article that a bazillion people are on Pinterest. Is there anything sadder than a half-hearted pin?

Okay, to recap: If you don’t have a lot of time to connect with folks: be clear about WHO YOU ARE AND WHY FOLKS SHOULD ENGAGE WIH YOU, and give them a SIMPLE AND CLEAR PATH to do so.

(*Dan resists urge to link to his own newsletter sign up form*)

Bonus Tips
Here are two other “housekeeping” tasks to consider doing before the year is up:

Are there a million other things you should put on a proper checklist like this? Yep. But to me, these are the core few things that we too often skip past. We mean to get to, but we don’t, and over time, it sends things wildly off track. We aren’t clear on our messaging, aren’t clear as to how folks can connect with us, and we put our work at risk by never backing up.

Simple actions.

Oh, and if you missed it, Keith Cronin posted some lovely advice of his own for 5 things to keep in mind as you approach the new year [3].

What else is on your checklist?


About Dan Blank [4]

Dan Blank is the founder of WeGrowMedia [5], where he helps writers share their stories and connect with readers. He has helped hundreds of authors via online courses, events, consulting, and workshops, and worked with amazing publishing houses and organizations who support writers such as Random House, Workman Publishing, Abrams Books, Writers House, The Kenyon Review, Writer’s Digest, Library Journal, and many others.